Behavioral Analysis

I’m obsessed with data and finding ways to quantify and analyze behaviors. I also have a fairly torrid love affair going with Excel, so I finally answered a question that had been rolling around in my mind for a while:

What projects do I actually finish?

I looked at the 70 projects I’ve completed over time, and I broke them down into types.

Percentage-wise (rounding up and down) it’s approximately:

Accessories 3%
Baby 3%
Hats 17%
Scarf / Wrap 16%
Shrug / Bolero 13%
Socks 35%
Sweaters 10%
Tops / Tees / Vests 4%

I found this breakdown fairly interesting, as one of the main reasons I wanted to learn to knit was so I could make sweaters and shrugs to wear over dresses, yet combined they comprise less than a quarter of my knitting output. Of course it can be argued that counting each pair of socks as a project is disproportionate with the arduousness of creating a whole sweater, but math-wise, I seem much more likely to finish a pair of socks than anything else.

Next I considered whether I am as selfish a knitter as I think I am, and if that has any influence on the types of projects I finish.

11 gifts and 59 projects for myself. Yes, I am knitting about as selfishly as possible.

I am most likely to make you a hat or a scarf / wrap if I’m knitting you a gift.

And I am most likely to make myself socks or wintry accessories (hats and scarves). Even though I really want sweaters.

So without further sorting the data and filling in a bit of subjectivity, I seem more likely to finish smaller or easier projects (hats, scarves, socks) whether they’re for myself or others. Not a huge surprise there. And while I didn’t compile data on it, I know that I almost never wear any of the non-sweater tops I’ve made, whereas I wear the sweaters and shrugs quite frequently. They may be a larger time investment and a higher degree of difficulty, but I get a lot more enjoyment and use out of them, so that’s time and energy sometimes better spent.

Then I turned to pattern sources, to answer a secondary question inspired by the amount of money I’ve spent on magazine subscriptions and books over the years.

What pattern sources yield the most finished projects?

I would have guessed that I knit the most projects from knitting magazines, but I would have been quite wrong.

I knit about 39% from independent or self-publishing designers, 17% from online magazines (Knitty, the late MagKnits, Knit on the Net, and so forth), 14% from patterns I made up, 13% from magazines, 11% from yarn company patterns, and only about 6% from books.

I was quite surprised because of these sources, the books tend to be the most expensive, followed by magazines, yet my habits tend to be inversely proportionate to the cost. Whoops. I was also surprised by how many projects came from patterns that I had devised, but these were obviously quite a bit simpler (scarves, bags – essentially big rectangles that may or may not have had lace patterns incorporated).

And, I can’t forget, I’ve started a lot more projects than I’ve actually finished. But that was exactly the intent of this analysis. My hypothesis was that I’d be much more likely to finish patterns from paid sources, since I was literally more invested in them, but surprisingly, the split was 80% free patterns, only 20% paid.

And now I see where my apparent love and support of independent designers is not actually what it seems. Most of the self-published patterns I’ve finished were free. Otherwise, the free patterns came from online magazines and yarn companies (Cascade, Berroco, and Lion Brand, specifically).

And of the paid patterns, I was right, that I mostly finish those from magazines (almost exclusively Interweave Knits) followed by books and every once in a while I support an indie designer financially as well as in spirit.

So while there has been an excess of pie charts, I actually learned a lot about myself as a knitter. I may have a library full of magazines and books, but I am much more likely to finish free patterns I dig up from self-published sources and independent designers online.

I knit way more socks than anything else, although what I really want to knit are sweaters and shrugs.

And I could really stand to finish a few more gifts and pay to support all these independent designers whose work I obviously adore.

Well hi there

Gosh I’ve missed this space. I have an actual reason I’ve been away, but I also have some lesser reasons too.

I know a lot of knitters go full-tilt in the fall, whipping up new sweaters and afghans and what have you for the cold months. I seem to be a different type of knitter, coming back to life in the spring and summer.

Now that the trees have finally bloomed and I’ve had a few delightful evenings sitting outside sipping Prosecco, I am looking forward to nice things around here.

New look, new resolve

I hope you will find the new blog design and layout cleaner and more inviting to read. I certainly feel encouraged to come over here and write more.

I’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have, a large number of year-end summary posts detailing the various accomplishments and industry of other knitters and crafters. “I should make one of those,” I thought briefly, before I was discouraged by a sorry lack of productivity to show for myself.

The funny thing is that, while I have excuses aplenty (full-time school, overwhelming personal life stuff, busying myself with NYC) it’s not that I haven’t been knitting. I actually knit quite often, but I am not finishing anything. Or if I do, I’ll leave out some tiny but super-important step, like weaving ends in a scarf or hat, or sewing buttons on a sweater.

I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s lazy and silly of me, and I’d like to finish these projects and put them to use. So the good news is, very soon I’ll have a pile of imminent FOs to show you. The bad news is, you’ll probably have to wait until 2012. But since that’s right around the corner, I’m calling it all good.

Coincident with turning over a new crafting leaf (since really, you would not believe how important crafts are to maintaining my sanity), I’m drumming up a new set of Crafting Resolutions. (You’ll note I said Crafting, not just Knitting, wink wink.)

2012 Crafting Resolutions

  • Gather together all nearly-finished projects and block, sew on buttons, weave in ends, or perform any finishing tasks to transform them to FOs.
  • Finish at least one project each month (including photographing it and posting it here).
  • Make long overdue gifts for my family: Cobblestone Pullover for my father, Cable-Down Raglan for my mother, Oiled Wool Hat and matching gloves for my brother.
  • Knit a sweater using the yarn I bought in Iceland (related: tell the internet all about my trip to Iceland).
  • Make at least one pillow from the number of pillow kits I obsessively accumulate.
  • Learn to use my sewing machine, and sew at least four projects.
  • Branch out with needlepoint, cross-stitch, crewel work, etc.
  • Do not buy any more yarn or crafting supplies until marked progress has been made on finishing some major projects.

These resolutions probably look pretty familiar to those of years past, and alas, they may be my perpetual crafting goals. This year, however, I have a plan, and I hope you will enjoy watching it unfold.

Knitting Photography and Blogging

I made an observation the other day, while looking at my projects on Ravelry.

Almost all of my current projects use either outdated photos, old photos, or images of yarn as their thumbnails.

I made another observation while making a spreadsheet of my current WIPs to form a queue-within-a-queue, as it were, for finishing (I swear, this is completely normal behavior): I have a growing list of projects that are finished but not blogged, for want of photography.

These two observations brought me to the problematically obvious conclusion: I have become lazy about photographing my knits.

As a consequence, I have also been a very bad absentee knit-blogger, which makes me a little sad. I started this blog in part because I loved photographing and writing about my knitting projects. I like making a record of the things I do, making images of my work in its very best light, and remembering what I thought in the excitement of finishing a project. Yes, I have a big shelf in my closet with sweaters, a basket overflowing with hand-knit socks, and another basket started with hats and wintry accessories. But it’s not the same, somehow, to look at a stretched-out sock in need of washing, as to glance lovingly at that same sock when it was first knit, showcased in some of my favorite shoes or shot with a macro lens to show off its tiny, lovely stitches.

Another, and more primary, aspect of knit-blogging that I do really love is the community. I’ve “met” such lovely and interesting people through this modest little blog, and I feel like I’ve cut myself off from that discussion by ceasing to contribute for such long stretches.

I have already enumerated in the past some of the reasons I’ve struggled with photographing my knits, chief among them a lack of attractive lighting/background options, a lack of spare hands to shoot for me, hating the way I look in everything including hand-knits a lot of the time, and of course, the persistent belief that if I try another day, I can get better light/background/help/be thinner etc.

I think another reason I’ve been hesitant about photographing and blogging my knits is that there is a lot of pressure, perceived or real, among knit-bloggers to take the most exquisite, saturated, artistic, and flattering photographs of knits possible. No doubt, some of the photography I’ve seen in knit blogs has rivaled or even topped the images published in knitting books or magazines, and some of it comes close to fine art photography. But the reality is that most knitters do not double as professional photographers, most knitters are not fashion models, and it’s unrealistic to believe that every image can – or should – come out at the level of something that was professionally lit, styled, composed, and processed.

I didn’t start a knitting blog because I wanted to become a professional photographer. I’m already an artist, I make images (yes, including photographs) as their own art form, and the same way I don’t create oil paintings of my knits, I don’t really need to belabor the photo documentation as if I were making fine photography portraits or doing catalogue work.

I am hereby releasing myself from the pressure of knit-porn style photography. I will try to take nice, pleasant images that showcase the knitting’s detail, but I don’t want to replace quality in knitting with fetishistic photography.

Adding to my struggle is the recent and incredibly upsetting breakdown of my beloved digital SLR. I genuinely love that camera, and when its electronics malfunctioned and shut down, I felt a bit like I’d just learned a friend had a terminal illness. I’m going to see if I can get it repaired, and if it’s too expensive, start saving up for a new camera body. Any of these options will take time, and it seems silly to keep avoiding my knitting blog until I’ve restored my camera equipment to full capacity.

So that leaves me with a point-and-shoot, poor February light, a lot of frustration on my part, the continued struggle to find good backgrounds and take flattering photos of myself (I live alone now), and the earnest desire to get back into knit-blogging even if it means shoddy photos for a bit.

And that is going to be just fine. We’re not here to talk about photographs – we’re here for the knitting. I miss connecting with people, learning about their lives, and enjoying their knitting and crafting along with them. Let’s do more of that, please.

I’m back

I have a huge amount of life events that have gone on since the last post in this blog, and it took me significantly longer than I thought it would to get around to fixing this site. Ditto with my personal blog, which I only just got back up and running yesterday. I doubt that what you see right now will be the final look of this blog, as I know I have a number of tweaks and adjustments to make, but I am aiming for something generally simpler, cleaner, and easier to maintain.

I do have a lengthy catch-up post planned if you are interested in where I’ve been all this time and what I’ve been doing. Some of the bigger events:

  • I finished both master’s theses and completed my MFA/MS degree (finally!!!)
  • I started a second bachelor’s degree in Chemistry (long story – I’ll explain soon)
  • I went on an amazing trip to Iceland with my mother
  • I spent the rest of the summer in New Jersey
  • I’ve moved out of my parents’ house and back to NYC!

Of course, I have a fairly impressive pile of FOs to show you, as well as new projects in the works, photo essays I’ve got planned, and a number of other knitterly things.

My knitting projects and stash are still in New Jersey, but they should be joining me soon enough, and with the seductive scent of fall in the air, I think it’s the perfect time to get back into knitting and blogging. I look forward to starting anew!